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Tomorrow's technology today - for under 200

4th September 2018
Jack Dempsey, product manager at Box.co.uk, gives an insight into the world of 3D printing…

There's no doubt about it - 3D printing is far more than just a gimmick. It's here to stay and the opportunities are endless.

Whereas once the price of a 3D printer made the technology inaccessible to ordinary folk, that is no longer the case with prices starting at under £200 at Box.co.uk.

From toys to machine parts, ornaments to jewellery, there is an incredible range of items which can be made with these fascinating machines. We've seen a huge rise in sales in the last two years. That is only going to continue, and I'd anticipate that most homes will have one in 10 to 15 years.

I can see a day in the not-too-distant future where if, say, a washing machine breaks, you'll call the helpline and they'll send the file for a replacement part to be printed straightaway.

And the future of 3D printing in larger machines is incredibly exciting. In some countries, printers are being used to create low-cost, bespoke prosthetic limbs.

Elsewhere, countries have been experimenting with printed houses. It's believed that a habitable home could be printed in just over a day - and costing a little over £3,000. This has the potential to solve the housing crisis.

Even more amazingly, work is ongoing to look at printing blood vessels and cells to create functional organs, and 3D printing will bring huge benefits to space travel as replacement parts can be created on site, when required, rather than incurring the enormous cost of flying rockets into space.

3D printing is actually not as new as you might assume. In fact, the technology dates back almost four decades, but enormous strides have been made in the last few years.

In terms of the consumer market, 3D printing works using thermoplastics fed into the machine almost like string. The plastic is melted and a model is built up layer by layer. It's called Fused Deposition Modelling.

At Box, our 3D printers range from around £150 to £6,500.

At the £150 entry price, you get your basic model. It will probably not have a heated bed and it will only have a small build platform, which limits the size of the models you can create. As you move up and spend more the build surface increases, so you can print bigger models - our biggest is 50cm x 50cm x 50cm - and you can print in thinner layers for higher quality prints. At the very high end you can print using different materials, such as metal.

Some of our printers are very easy to assemble, taking just five minutes, or some can take three or four hours. If you can put together flatpack, then you'll be able to put together a printer.

As well as individuals buying machines to make items for the home, we are finding that a lot of universities and schools are investing in printers to give their pupils an understanding of how they work. They are the engineers and inventors of the future.

These are exciting times. Visit our website or our shop to find out more.

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